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The Summer The Clippers "Slipped" by Carstairs

My brothers and I had always been close. It helped that we were only two years apart. I was the oldest, a year younger than me was Tim, and a year younger than him was Ben. Sure, we had our share of fights growing up, but underneath it all was a bond and love that could never be broken. We might fight, but watch out if you attacked one of us. You’d have to take on all three of us in the process.

We had a family tradition. The first Monday evening after school got out, Dad would bring out the clippers and we’d get our summer buzz cuts. Nothing too drastic, just a #2. During the school year, we’d be allowed to grow our hair to whatever we wanted. Usually, we choose a business type cut or ivy league. Not too short and certainly not too long. But every summer the growth came off and we’d be buzzed. Every two weeks, we’d keep it up.

Some of our friends would also get buzzed, but most didn’t. Still, we didn’t mind. We had a pool in our back yard, and loved the no maintenance style since we were swimming in it every day. Besides, it was the three of us against the world. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t face as long as we’re together.

When Ben entered Jr. high School, Dad turned the annual sheerings over to us. “You’re old enough to use the clippers,” he told us one night. And we found that it was indeed easy to buzz each other.

That had been six years ago, and now we were all in college. To our parent’s surprise, we had wound up at different colleges. They figured my brothers would follow in my footsteps as always. But maybe they felt they needed to form their own identities. The three of us never talked about it. Anyway, we were looking forward to that summer. Since I would be a senior the next year, it would probably be our last summer together. And all three of us had gotten jobs at the local water park.

I was actually the last one to get home that year. My college didn’t get out until Memorial Day weekend. Tim and Ben had already started their jobs.

“You’re looking a little scraggly there, bro,” Ben greeted me when I got home that Saturday. True, I hadn’t had a cut in two months. My last cut had been an ivy league, and it was looking for like an ivy bush. I’d just gotten too busy. I had a hard load at school and I’d started dating Kathy. She was an amazing woman, and I had a hard time being away from her, which naturally cut into my time for other things.

I ran my fingers through my hair. “I know. It’s been too long between cuts.”

Tim walked in munching a sandwich. “I can’t wait to get rid of my mop Monday. Having hair this long is a pain at work. After my turn in the pools, I wind up with wild hair for the rest of the day.”

Ben nodded his agreement while I cleared my throat. “About that….” I started. Both my brothers looked at me with accusing looks. “Well, you guys know Kathy’s coming Wednesday for a visit to meet everyone. I was hoping we could post pone the cuts a week until after she’d left.”

Ben shook his head. “Nothing doing, bro. It’s tradition.”

Tim swallowed his bite. “Beside, if she’s half as great as you keep saying she is, it’s not going to matter one bit to her.”

I stared at Tim. When had they gotten so wise? Of course I wanted to be with someone who saw more then my outward appearance. I cracked a small smile. “You’re right. See you both Monday night for our buzzes.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I was planning to get buzzed again that summer. Tim had a point about work. And, it would be our last summer together since I’d need to find a job after graduation. Still, I was a little nervous about Kathy’s reaction. I mentioned it in passing over the phone Sunday just to prepare her, but she really didn’t react.

Monday I was waiting for my brothers when they got home from work. For some crazy reason, I wasn’t due to start until the next day. I’d spent the day with some old high school friends at a Memorial Day BBQ. Frankly, as the day had progressed and the temperature had risen, I was glad I’d be loosing my mop that night.

While they grabbed a quick dinner, I set everything up in the corner of the family room. Tradition dictated we went in the order of our ages, so when they came in, I was already sitting in the chair with my shirt off, waiting.

Ben, always my barber, walked over. While Tim and I started chatting about our day, Ben put the #2 attachment on and fired up the clippers. “Ready, bro?” Absently, I nodded my head, and he placed them on my forehead. Slowly, he pulled them back through my hair.

But something didn’t feel quite right to me. I’d been getting buzzed for 15 years, and this felt funny. The guard felt wobbly like it was loose on one side. Before I could say anything, I felt the attachment come loose and the blade veer off down the side of my head.

Ben’s eyes got very wide. “Oops.”

I stood up and walked over to the mirror on the wall to see the damage. Right in the middle of my forehead, I had a strip buzzed at the normal #2. About the middle of my head, there was a sudden bald spot that had taken off down the right side of my head.

I turned back toward Ben. “Oops? Let me see those clippers. And the attachment.” I added a moment later when all he’d handed me was the clippers. But he shook his head and hid it behind his back. That was all I needed to know.

“Ok, you got me,” I grinned as I plopped back into the chair. “Nice set up.”

Ben and Tim both looked at me in surprise. “Set up?” Tim asked.

“Yeah. Ben didn’t attach the blade securely enough so it was bound to come off sooner or later. Better finish what you started. And, by the way, don’t quit your day job to become an actor. Your ‘oops’ helped give you away.”

Ben grinned and placed the clippers, with out any guards, back at my forehead. This time he pushed back quickly. “So you aren’t mad?”

“Well, this isn’t my first choice, but there’s not much I can do now. Besides, I have a feeling this is my punishment for suggesting we break tradition?”

“Uh huh,” Ben said absently as he finished up with the clippers. It didn’t take too long before he had rid me of my hair. I was surprised to see how much was on the floor. My hair was longer then I thought it was. “All finished.”

I got up and looked in the mirror again. It didn’t look half bad, but was certainly going to take a little getting used to. This was the shortest I’d ever cut my hair. But hey, it’d grow back. I rubbed my hand over my head. I must admit I kinda liked that sandpapery feel.

I turned back to the chair. “Next,” I called out.

Tim got up and stripped off his shirt. “Just a little off the top,” he grinned. His eyes got a little wide when we saw my take a swipe through his hair with no guard on the clippers. “What are you doing?” he demanded.

“It’s quite simple. We always get the same buzz every summer. It’s tradition. Beside, I know you were in on this.” I indicated my own head. “You made sure I wasn’t paying any attention until it was too late.”

Tim grinned. “Ok, you’ve got a good point. Beside, there’s no turning back now.”

I made quick work of his hair, and then he did the same for Ben. Ben knew what was coming, and didn’t try to protest. I think this might have been his ultimate plan all along. Beside, if he hadn’t gone along with us, he would have regretted it. We were still the big brothers, and he was out numbered two to one.

When Ben examined his new cut in the mirror, we joined him. We stood there for several minutes feeling each other’s noggins and just grinning stupidly. Finally, we cleaned up the mess.

Our parents were shocked when they got home from their shopping (Mom was always big on sales). “Looks good, guys,” Dad said. But Mom just shook her head. I think she liked it, but she couldn’t admit it just yet.

Tuesday, all three of us were careful to put lots of sunscreen on our heads, since we were out in the sun all day. Still, it started to tan and was looking even better.

Wednesday evening, I went to the train station to pick up Kathy for her visit. I was a little nervous, but Tim’s words kept coming back to me. We’d only known each other this last semester. I had a feeling this would be a real turning point in our relationship.

When Kathy got off the train, she ran straight into my arms and enveloped me with a big bear hug. If this is what I get after a few days, can’t wait to see what I get after a month, I thought to myself. Not that I was complaining, mind you.

He collected her luggage and got into my car. On the way to my house, we chatted about what we’d been up to the last few days. Finally, the comment came. “When you told me you’d be buzzing your hair, I didn’t know you meant this short.”

I laughed. “I didn’t.” I quickly told her about what had happened Monday night.

She laughed multiple times as I told her the story. “Sounds like they got you good. Can’t wait to meet your brothers. And it looks great. Too bad you didn’t go all the way.”

When we arrived at my house, things were awkward for about 15 minutes. Just the usual new visitor in the house kind of thing. No one knew quite what to say, and conversation was polite but reserved. Then Kathy told Ben how funny she thought the joke they’d played on me was. That broke the ice. Soon we were swapping stories about things we’d done to each other over the years. I could tell my family really loved her, too. But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about what Kathy had said in the car.

Before the evening got too late, I walked Kathy down the street to the friend’s house she’d be staying with. We didn’t have a guest bedroom, and we weren’t to the point of our relationship where spending the night together was even an option we wanted to consider.

Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. “I have to ask, what did you mean in the car? Go all the way?”

Kathy laughed. “I’ve had friends over the years who have taken shaving cream and a razor to their head. Must admit, I kinda like the look. I just thought since you were so close…. But it was just a passing thought.”

We said our good nights and I walked home, my mind in a whirl. I’d never even thought of shaving my head. But now I was intrigued. And Kathy said she liked it. We weren’t talking about that much hair, right?

When I got home, I went straight to the bathroom. I stood staring at myself for a couple minutes. Didn’t look like it would make that much difference. And by now I had to try it. Quickly, I hopped into the shower to wet my head. Then I wrapped a towel around my waist and walked over to the sink. While it filled with water, I rubbed shaving cream all over my head. Now, for the moment of truth. I grabbed the razor and brought it to my head. Then I hesitated. Slowly, I took a deep breath and pulled. No turning back now.

The strip felt incredibly smooth. Quickly, I moved a little to the left and made the swatch bigger. Again to the right. This is actually a little fun, I thought to myself and I continued around the back. That was the hardest part, but I soon figured out I could use my other hand to help me get it completely smooth.

Soon, I was done and splashing cold water on my head to clean it up. I examined it closely in the mirror. Not bad at all. And the feel!

Just then, there was a knock on the door. “Hey Dave. Ben and I are going to take a quick swim before bed. Want to join us?” (Yes, even after working at a water park, we will swim at the drop of a hat. What can I say; we love the water.)

“I’ll have to grab my swim trunks. Be out in a minute.” I called back.

By the time I got outside, Ben and Tim were already involved in a major water fight. I threw my towel on a deck chair and walked over to the deep end. “Kids, quit fighting,” I teased good-naturedly.

“Come make us,” Tim challenged back.

I dove into the pool and was taken aback. The feel of water on my head was not at all what I expected. I felt so smooth as I glided through the water. I popped up near my brothers. The light must have been good, because they stopped to stare at me.

Ben was the first to reach his hand out. “What happened?” he asked as he rubbed my naked noggin. Tim’s hand wasn’t far behind at all.

I told them briefly. They seemed intrigued. Suddenly, we got into a big dunk fight, with me the main target. Frankly, I think it was just an excuse to feel my head.

The next morning, I got up after my brothers had left for work. My boss was being great and letting me take Kathy’s visit off. (The advantage of working the same place four years in a row.) Still, we planned to spend the day at the water park. It’s a fun place, and she wanted to see where I’d be working.

As soon as she saw me, her face broke into a big grin. Her hand immediately went to my head, and she rubbed and rubbed. “It looks great,” she finally said.

We had fun at the park. Kathy’s hand kept wandering up to my head all day while we waited in line. And I wasn’t at all surprised to see my brothers were also completely hairless when we ran into them.

All three of us kept our heads shaved that summer. Our parents never did say anything to us about having shaved our heads. Honestly, I doubt Mom cared, but I think Dad liked it. Our co-workers gave us a hard time about the bald brothers. But we didn’t care. It was the three of us against the world – again.

That was several years ago. When Ben went back to college in the fall, he took my teasing as a challenge and changed his major to drama. After he graduated, he moved to LA and got a job staring on a sit-com. This summer, he’ll working on his first movie. I must admit, he’s a great actor. Much improved over that summer. Both he and Tim grew their hair back when the summer was over but tend to go shorter when summer rolls around.

When time came for me to head back to school, I kept on shaving. After all, Kathy loved it. I considered growing it back when it came time to interview for a job, but after two days, the razor was back out. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem after I went for my first interview. The man interviewing me was also shaved. And I was correct; I got a great job.

Kathy and I were married after graduation as well. Tim and Ben decided to shaved their heads again for their rolls as co-best man, which lead to my other groomsmen shaving their heads so they’d fit in. But that’s another story.

Kathy is truly as amazing as I thought she was. We’re still very happy together, and just had our first child. A son. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to start the family tradition of a buzz cut for the summer.

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